I had never experienced Halloween before. Anything I knew about Halloween was from what I saw in the movies. Trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, dressing up for Halloween in spooky costumes, playing pranks, watching horror movies and apple bobbing are some of the activities people usually do during the Halloween season. According to what people have told me, Halloween is celebrated in remembrance of the departed souls and martyrs.
On October 11, the Residential Life office sent out an email to the Keene State students regarding the no guest policy. The no guest policy will be in effect from October 31 to November 2. The students of Keene State College are going to have access to all the buildings on the campus, but guests are not allowed in any of the residential halls.
The residential assistants are going to keep watch at the entrance and check the IDs of everybody entering the buildings. Anyone who does not have an Owl Card will not be allowed inside the buildings. I was surprised to hear about the no guest policy, and I started inquiring about this. That is how I came to know about the pumpkin riot that happened five years ago in Keene.
Pumpkin Festival used to be a long-lived festival for Keene. According to the History of Keene Pumpkin Festival, this event started as a harvest festival in 1991. As time passed, the festival slowly started to grow in popularity. It is an event where people showcase pumpkins that they carved with their schools, organizations or families. They have food stands, music and a place for kids to play. Moreover, people come from different places to get together with family and friends to have fun.
Five years ago, during the Pumpkin Festival, a large number of people turned the festival into a nightmare. According to the Los Angeles Times, people were throwing bottles, destroying the street signs, flipping cars, pushing barricades, cursing and throwing bottles at police. A lot of people were injured and they set a large fire in the streets. The situation was so out of hand that Keene Police had to use tear gas and street fires to take control of the situation. Over 100 people were arrested and held accountable for the chaos. It made headlines in almost all social media platforms and newspapers the next day.
Pumpkin Festival used to be grand, however, the city of Keene could not overcome the riot. The Pumpkin Festival did not happen again for three years because of the riot. This year the city did host a festival; however, it was smaller than what it used to be.
Students’ safety has always been a priority for our college. This is the reason why it creates reforms and programs to ensure security. The sole purpose of the no guest policy is to maintain a safe boundary around the campus. I hope the city of Keene can heal the scars from the riot and be able to celebrate the Pumpkin Festival without any fear in the future.
Slesha Tuladhar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org